Insufficiency of Henry George’s Theory

By Laurence Gronlund.
First published 1887
by New York Labor News Company,

Insufficiency of Henry George’s Theory.

This criticism is not intended to be a gage of battle to Henry George, but a warning to the members of, and sympathizers with, the United Labor Party. Not only do we highly esteem the noble qualities of his head and heart; not only do we warmly recognize the great services he has rendered to the cause of reform, as well by his splendid refutation of the hateful Malthusian doctrine, as by his fusion of so many progressive elements into a political party; but, more particularly, we consider Henry George the forerunner of Socialism in these United States, and the entering wedge for our ideas into American minds. Just now, however, we Socialists, feel a solemn duty devolving upon us. A short time ago a call was issued for the meeting of convention of the United Labor Party of this State a couple of months hence, which call on the one hand omits all mention of, and even allusion to, “the perverse economic system which robs the producer of a large share of the fruits of his labor” that had such a prominent place in the constitution adopted by the Party of New York county; and, on the other hand, lays almost exclusive stress on the land-theories and “remedy” of George. We deem this a most unfortunate, retrograde step, the more so as the constitution itself did not condemn the wage-system sufficiently to perfectly satisfy us; but this retreat is a sharp reminder to us that it is high time to examine these theories from a Socialist point of view and, especially, to show that they are by no means a universal panacea for our social troubles as some consider them. This criticism, therefore, will attempt, in as few words as possible, to prove first, that the doctrines of George, though to a certain extent true, are altogether too narrow and one-sided; next, that his “remedy” is in every way impracticable and inadequate; and, lastly, oppose to them the teachings and expediency of modern Socialism.

One-Sidedness of his Arguments.

George, in his celebrated work Progress and Poverty,[1] seeks an answer to the question: “What is it that produces poverty amid advancing wealth?”

Seeks an answer? IS or it is just the trouble that he is not seeking the answer. It is, precisely, the peculiarity of Progress and Poverty and the feature that causes, as we shall see, a great deal of mischief, that he is, evidently, from the start determined on a certain solution; that the answer is, and probably for a long time previous to writing his book was, a foregone conclusion in his mind. This foregone conclusion is, that what produces poverty is land and landholders. We know that in his book he boasts, and probably in all sincerity, of having reached this conclusion “by an examination in which every step has been proved and secured,” (page 237), but, as a matter of fact, we find him, at every step that he takes, confining himself to the examination of but one side of the road. Indeed, he seems to be stone-blind in one eye. This is apparent at the very first fact which he advances, after having made his preparations and cleared the road, and which is to conduct himself and his readers to the right solution. This first fact settles his conclusion, and settles, also, our criticism.

Here is the fact: interest does not increase. “Increase of rent, rise of land-values,” is the invariable mark of material progress, “while neither wages nor interest anywhere increase. The increase of rent explains why wages and interest do not increase. The cause which gives to the landholder is the cause which denies to the laborer and capitalist.” (Page 162.)

Interest does not increase! What does this mean? “Interest” is a very ambiguous word. Is it possible that George can mean, that the sums which annually are paid into capitalist pockets in the form of interest, that the incomes of capitalists do not increase? It is difficult for the thoughtful reader to believe that it is really this which George affirms, and yet so it is. In the above passage he speaks of the capitalist being wronged, “denied.” On page 267 he says: “The improvements which increase the productive power of labor and capital, increase the reward of neither. However astounding, then, George comes to the conclusion, affirms and reaffirms, that only landholders grow richer and richer by our material progress, while capitalists do not get their proper share and are, in fact, in the same boat as the wage-workers. But how, may be asked, can he come to such a preposterous conclusion, since if he but glances at the other side, he will see that landholders constitute but a small portion of our monied class, and by no means the richest portion.

Well, as was said, he is stone-blind in that eye.

In the next place, it is by the shifting use of an ambiguous word that he imposes on himself, and more remarkable still, on thousands of quick-witted wage-earners. When at first he says “interest does not increase” he means, that the rate of interest does not increase.

Well, that the rate of interest constantly diminishes, is, of course, a fact; but what of that? This does not at all, as every schoolboy knows, prevent the income of the capitalist from constantly growing, from growing at a tremendous rate, from growing much faster than the income of the landlord from increasing rent. The capitalist has a greater income from $2000 at 4 per cent, than from $1000 at 5 per cent. Indeed, the increase of rent and decrease of the rate of interest have at bottom the same cause, for the landowner’s fortune can increase in no other way than by a rise in rent, since the land cannot increase in area as George so often insists on, while in spite of diminishing rate of interest, the fortune of the capitalist increases to such gigantic proportions that, to be profitably employed, it necessitates a still lower rate.

The conclusion, that only landholders benefit from our material progress, he is thus brought to by the most astonishing piece of self-deception.

Again, we find that George is blind to the most important element in the up-building of these fortunes. He refuses to acknowledge that there is anything that, properly, can be called profits. He calls (page 116) Buckle “inextricably confused,” because this author “persistently speaks of the distribution of wealth into rent, wages, interest and profits.” “We want to find,” he says, (page 118), “what it is that determines the division of the joint produce between land, labor and capital, and ‘profits’ is not a term that refers exclusively to any one of these three divisions,” and so he wants to have nothing at all to do with it.

Yet our whole industrial system is founded, precisely, on profits. Our wage-system might be called the profit-system. It is the enterprising fellow (whom, since George cannot help to mention him, he very happily calls “the mover in production”) who hires the wage-earner and pays him wages, who borrows from the capitalist and pays him interest, who leases from the landlord and pays him rent, all in order that he may pocket the profits, all exclusively for the sake of the profits, and that he may, himself, become a capitalist. Sometimes these enterprising fellows club together, and then they also hire a manager, and pay him wages of superintendence, so as clearly to show that their profits, which they call “dividends,” are unearned. And it is these profits that, under our industrial system, give rise to wages, interest and rent, these profits which serve as steam to our industrial machinery, and form the foundation of the fortunes of the world, that George unceremoniously eliminates.

But there are other pages of George’s book that show how the foregone conclusion has not merely blinded his one eye but “inextricably” twisted his mind, and that is his original argument in justification of interest. It is, indeed, more than original; it is artful. We read (page 133.) “It seems to me, that it is this which is the cause of interest.” What? Here it comes: “While many things might be mentioned which like money, or planes, or planks, or engines, or clothing,” or, in fact, nearly all that we call wealth, “have no innate power of increase, yet other things are included in the terms wealth and capital, which like wine, will of themselves increase in quality up to a certain point; or like bees, or cattle, will of themselves increase in quantity; and certain other things, such as seeds, which, though the conditions which enable them to increase may not be maintained without labor, yet will, when these conditions are maintained yield an increase, or give a return over and above that which is to be attributed to labor.”

This, then, is what, on page 133, seems to me, (mark that!) to be the cause of interest. But a little further on, on page 138, there is no doubt of it, there it is settled that it is, for we read: “Thus interest springs from the power of increase which the reproductive forces of Nature give to capital. It is not an arbitrary, but a natural thing. It is not the result of a particular social organization, but of laws of the universe which underlie society. It is therefore, just.”

Why, this argument is the most extraordinary sophism that ever deceived an author! And then it is so evident that it was suggested to George by his desire to give his whole attention to the case of landowners. It is hardly worth while to notice that Nature always works gratis, and that if wine, cattle, bees and seed create values, it is because they require human labor and receive human attention. There is another, and very different consideration, that at once disposes of the argument. George himself says in another connection (page 247): “It is the greater that swallows up the less, not the lesser that swallows up the greater.” Exactly, and that applies here. Wine, cattle, bees and seed form such an insignificant part of all values, that they could not possibly govern and lay down laws for the rest, and they do not do it.

No, it is quite another thing which—does not justify, but—makes interest perfectly legitimate under the present profit system. Our enterprising fellow whom we spoke of above, the “mover” in production, borrows money, in order to make more money by it—make profits by it—and he generally succeeds. It is therefore only just, that he share his profits with the capitalist. Interest thus is simply a fair divide, therefore legitimate, as long as this system lasts, but no longer. As soon as this profit-system falls, interest will again become usury as of old, when people only borrowed, because they were in distress. But all the time interest is the monopoly-price, paid for the use of capital, as rent is the monopoly-‘price, paid for the use of land.

By these fallacies and expedients George has had no difficulty in convincing himself that it is rent (page 163) “that swallows up the gain, at the expense of wages (the share of the laborer) and interest (the share of capital), and pauperism accompanies progress,” and also, that (page 149) “capital is but a form of labor,” a twin-sister so to speak, equally suffering.

But now we come to the climax, the argument which in Progress and Poverty George merely considers a test, to which he is willing to submit, but which in all his later books and writings he insists of as his chief and unanswerable reason for his theory of the absolute wrongfulness of private property in land. It is, by the way, an argument in the style of the French philosophers of the last century who delighted in starting from one axiom or another, derived from their own inner consciousness, and making deductions therefrom till they arrived at such conclusions as suited them. This argument of George is found on page 239 and following pages, and is this: A man has a right to himself, therefore a right to the fruits of his own exertions, therefore no right to what is not the fruit of his own exertions, therefore not to land.

Now it must be observed that the “land” George here means, is, on the one hand, bare land, bereft of all improvements; and on the other hand, land which has got value. By saying that no individual has a right to land, he then means that no individual has a right to what is generally called ground-values. Again, land in that sense he distinguishes from capital, saying that the latter is the fruit of a man’s exertions, but that the former is not, is “an element like air, water and sunlight.”

That is, precisely, what land is not. How can he say that, when he insists on the value of land? Has air and sunlight value? Has water value except f.i. that of Chicago, which is tapped from Lake Michigan, pumped up into peoples’ houses, and which they pay for? And what distinction is there between such water and capital? In fact, the distinction he makes between land and capital is absolutely baseless.

There was a time when land had no value; that was during the Middle Ages, when the workers belonged to, were a part of the land, and when it could not be bought and sold, now when it is bought and sold like any other ware, it has value like any other ware, that is to say a value determined by the human labor embodied in it, above and below which demand and supply make its price vibrate. George himself says, (Protection and Free Trade, page 291): “Land in itself has no value. Value arises only from human labor.” It is, then, not God who has created the value of land, but Man.

Further, bare, valuable land stands exactly on the same footing as capital. The value of both is created by the labor—not of their possessors, but—of other people. Such land-value is created by the surrounding improvements, by grading, by streets, railroads, etc. Growth of population alone creates nothing; there must be some that work. And capital is accumulated from rents, interests and profits, all together constituting fleecings from the fruits of labor. It is, then, land and capital that are twin-sisters.

Land and capital, together, constitute means of labor, means of production. We are living in an age when we can do without neither. We now have nothing to do with ages when one would get along with bow and arrow, canoe and such things that one could make for himself. That is the reason why progress demands that both land and capital be placed under collective control.

It is then clear that Henry George has not surveyed the whole field, and that his theory for that reason is entirely too narrow, but he has at all events brought his disciples out on the road that leads to socialism, that is to say to a position where they must come to find it illogical to remain.

Inadequateness of His ”Remedy”

But not merely is his theory too narrow, we insist that his “remedy,” that of confiscating all rent, will not accomplish what he predicts, when reduced to practice.

We, then, lay no stress here on two objections that might be made to its practicability and expediency, but shall only just mention them.

George claims that such a tax as he proposes, confiscating all land-values, is constitutional and, particularly, does not require a change in the Constitution of the United States. This is doubtful. And if that constitution is to be changed, it is certainly better to agitate for complete instead of partial Socialism.

Again, there are many persons with tender consciences, who will say that it is one thing to make all means of production into collective property, as we Socialists propose; that such a measure would be proper enough, even if no compensation were paid, since all proprietors would be treated alike; but to deprive one class, the landowners, of their possessions, without compensation, and at the same time leave all other capitalist classes in quiet enjoyment of their wealth is quite another thing, is, in fact, nothing but downright robbery.

But we pass over to far more serious objections.

First, consider the “remedy” as a fiscal policy. It is evident that George expects enormous revenues to flow annually into the coffers of the nation from the confiscation of rent. Thus he says (page 326, Progress and Poverty): “It will become possible for it to realize the dream of socialism. Government could take upon itself the transmission of messages by telegraph, as well as by mail, of building and operating railroads, as well as of opening and maintaining common roads. There would be a great and increasing surplus revenue from the taxation of land values, for material progress which would go on with greatly accelerated rapidity would tend constantly to increase rent. We might not establish public tables—they would be unnecessary—but we could establish public baths, museums, libraries, gardens, lecture rooms, music and dancing halls, theaters, universities, technical schools, shooting galleries, play-grounds, gymnasiums, etc. Heat, light and motive power, as well as water,, might be conducted through our streets at public expense, our roads be lined with fruit trees; discoverers and inventors rewarded, scientific investigations supported, and in a thousand ways the public revenues made to foster efforts for the public benefit. We should reach the ideal of the Socialist, but not through governmental repression. Government would change its character and would become the administration of a great cooperative society.”

Now remember the enormous sums that the above magnificent schemes would cost are to be defrayed out of what is left after providing for the ordinary running expenses of the federal government, the several States, counties, cities, and townships, for all other taxes, of whatever nature are intended by him to be abolished. But what reason is there to expect any such revenue from this single tax, or anything like it? George has, to our knowledge, never framed a. budget, based on his ideas. The whole proposition is thus a leap into the dark, but perhaps it is possible to throw a ray of light into the darkness.

The federal census report of 1880 estimates all the real estate of the Union for that year, that is to say all farms, and all land with its improvements, all mines, all churches and public buildings at something less than $23,000 million. But do not for a moment take that as the amount on which to levy rent. First all improvement should be deducted. Then should George’s “remedy” ever be adopted, there will be a vast shrinkage in land-values, for at present the greater part thereof is purely speculative, as he not merely admits but insists upon. And to this must be added an item of immense import. The agricultural lands of the Union, instead of now furnishing ten thousand millions of the above estimate, will furnish a comparatively very, very small part of the taxes under George’s scheme. Among his answers to queries in his journal, the Standard, George has this: “So far from expecting to raise taxes from farmers by taxing land-values, we expect to lessen the taxes from farmers and raise most public revenues from mines and city lots” And here another: ” If the owner of a farm increases its productiveness, the increase belongs not to the category of land but to that of improvements, and would on the plan proposed in Progress and Poverty, he exempt from taxation.” So on this plan the cities would have to provide for the country, an arrangement that might not be satisfactory to either party.

Let us now see how the “budget” would balance. Five per cent, annual rent of $23,000 millions makes $1100 millions. Deduct from that the taxes paid on improvements; then the shrinkage caused by speculative values being eliminated, and then the loss of taxes from agricultural land. On the other hand consider that the federal revenues now amount to about $300 million, and the revenues of the States, counties, cities and townships to 312 million, in all more than $600 million, and it is evident that both ends will not meet, not to speak of any surplus with which to realize his magnificent schemes. It is clear that the mind of George has been dazzled by the extraordinary wealth of a few silver-mines and by the very rise in the speculative value of city lots which he denounces.

No, then the plan of Godin, of Guise, France, is more practical. He and George have many things in common; he has the same fondness as George for abstract reasoning and general principles, but lacks George’s eloquence and personal magnetism. He also wants to put an end to the monopoly by the rich of Nature’s gifts, but proposes for that purpose, instead of taking away the possessions of a single class, that the State shall on the death of proprietors, confiscate part of their estates, a small proportion of small fortunes, and an increasing one as the estates are larger until it be one-half of the very large fortunes. These funds Godin then, further, like George, wants to substitute for all other taxes, which the surplus, also with him a very large one, he proposes to use in abolishing pauperism. But he meets in France with about the same obstacles as George in America. The possessing class ignore him, rather than violently oppose him, as they “do here George, and the Socialists will have nothing to do with his “remedy,” as being nothing but a weak, illogical compromise.

But the greatest illusion of George as to the practical consequences of confiscating rent is still to be considered. It is as to the remarkable increase of well-being for the wage-earners which he confidently expects. He thinks their homes will be vastly improved, that they never more, will be dependent on the employing classes, that production will assume wondrous proportions, and wages reach their very highest point. What an illusion!

This illusion is caused, precisely by this that George wants by hook or by crook, to make Capital and Labor into twin-sisters—which they are if the horse-leech and the horse can be called “twin-sisters.” Capitalists, including landowners, are in possession of all the means of labor, including raw materials; the workers have, as a rule, nothing but their naked labor. In order to live, they are therefore under the necessity of accepting employment from the capitalist classes on the best terms they can obtain; and these terms are, as a matter of fact, to work, say five hours for themselves daily, on condition that they will work the other five hours daily for their masters’ gratis. This gratuitous work results in what we may call fleecings, and these fleecings are then distributed among the capitalist classes under the names of rent, interest and profit. Now it is clear as sunlight, that immunity from taxation would benefit the capitalist classes solely; it will not diminish the items profit and interest. It cannot possibly increase wages, for free land will not enable the workers to create with their bare hands raw materials and other means of labor, but it may actually bring wages down to the increased cheapness of living that might follow.

But, says George, production will increase so much, that instead of laborers competing for work, the employers will compete to get workers. Well, when land has been closed to the “enterprise” of capitalists, they very likely will invest more capital in industry—and thereby, by the way, create a still wilder competition, more “overproduction,” and more crises. But there will be just as many “hands” seeking work as now, and if not, immigration will soon bring them in. But, replies George, a worker with a home will not accept such low wages as a homeless man. Indeed he will; experience, precisely, teaches that a man with a home, thus nailed to a given spot, a certain locality, since he cannot live off his home, is the very man to cut down wages, the very man to hold aloof from his comrades in a strike. And, then, how can George be so sure that the workman will have a “home?” A bare lot does not make a home; how is he going to have a house built?

These considerations show that George’s “remedy” is no remedy at all. Confiscation of rent, or even State ownership of all land, standing alone, will accomplish nothing, or next to nothing. True, land should be nationalized; as part of a comprehensive programme such nationalization is the right thing, but to commence the programme with such a demand is, in the United States, commencing from the wrong end; it is antagonizing the very class, the farmers, whom we want to benefit, for they, in the first place, will lose the grip on their farms. Why, the nationalization of agricultural land is here the very last thing to be thought of. The writer of this had a short time ago, a talk about George, in London, with Rev. Stewart Headlam, of the Church Reformer. At the close he said: “So you think me a fool for being a disciple of Henry George!” “A fool! No. Why, if I were a citizen here, I should be a follower of George to a great extent.” In Great Britain land is the first “means of labor” to revolutionize. This is the most remarkable thing about George, that he, an American, should have hatched such a British idea, and one at the same time so un-American.

There are other things that render George’s “remedy” impracticable, f.i., that he must first convince his countrymen that Free Trade is such a blessed thing, but of these matters we need not insist.

Abolition of the Wage-System and the Substitution of Social Co-Operation

So far, however, we have really, but unavoidably, been beating round the bush; we shall now go to the kernel of the difference between Henry George and Socialists. He says in Social Problems, (page 66): “There are deep wrongs in the present constitution of society, but they are not wrongs inherent in the constitution of man, nor in those social laws which are as truly the laws of the Creator as are the laws of the physical universes. They are wrongs resulting from bad adjustments which it is within our power to amend.”

Of the above we only agree with him in this: that “they are not inherent in the constitution of man.” For the rest, George only wants to “amend” “bad adjustments,” but not, of course, “social laws.” But what are, in his eyes, such “social laws?” Ah, here comes in his fundamental blunder; he calls the wage-system, competition, the capacity of capital to absorb interest, “social laws, as truly the laws of the Creator, as are the laws of the physical universe”—and yet they have only played a role for a couple of hundred years at most. He, however, considers them as existing from eternity and destined to last forever. He wants simply to cure the bad effects of our social arrangements; he has had his whole attention directed to one bad symptom, and, like an empiric “doctor,” he brings his “remedy,” and another, “doctor” Godin, brings his “remedy”—both being led by the noblest and most generous instincts. But neither of them has the smallest idea of changing our present social arrangements. We, as much as George, wish to do away with private property in land. Why, then, do we not follow his lead? Because he wants to keep the land in the hands of private individuals as at present, to be exploited for private profit. There is where we fundamentally differ from him. And this is not merely a matter of difference in policy: it is a matter of difference in social philosophy.

We have, we think, a good illustration at hand. We, Socialists, say that society is precisely in the state of a child, who is about shedding its first teeth and getting its second permanent set. This is a transition period for the child. So society is now in a transition period, during which social cooperation is to be substituted for competition. It is a change for which wicked Socialists are not responsible, but one decreed by the power behind evolution. But it is a period of discomforts, of sufferings. What, however, would be thought of a quack who came with his “remedies” for keeping the first set of teeth in the jaws of the child? This is absolutely the analogous position of George and Godin.

Just as the first set of teeth is of excellent service to the child during some years, so the wage-system, competition, “private enterprise” were for a period an unmixed good to humanity and have conferred lasting benefits on society; even private ownership of land was instituted, when it was, because it was an advantage to society at large and is not such an absolute, universal evil as George wants to make it out A few hundred years back all nations were very poor; if all wealth then had been impartially distributed, it would have constituted the poverty of all. The first necessary step therefore to take, in order to raise society up on a higher plane, was to cause production to increase. This was the ultimate result of the English, the American and the French Revolutions. By these revolutions the rich middle classes, the Plutocrats, were little by little raised to supreme power in the State, and with them came the wage-system, competition and “Private Enterprise.” These plutocrats were raised to power with the specific mission of increasing production, and they have done this work so well that society at present would be able, with the inventions, the machinery, the division of labor, now at her service, to satisfy the reasonable wants of all her members, with ease, and require but a very moderate amount of labor, perhaps, but four hours daily labor in return—if she were permitted.

Some may here object that even the richest nations of our time are poor; that also now if the wealthiest society would distribute her riches impartially to all, many would be m want. Suppose we grant that? But there is this difference that while society formerly could not with her best efforts produce sufficient, now she can. Society can now produce in abundance, if she be permitted to employ all willing hands and heads. But we again repeat: she is not permitted. She dares not produce all she can. Who prevents her? The Plutocrats, who have supreme power in this nation, as in every other nation. They who monopolize all capital and land. They produce for the sake of profits, as already observed. They do not care a snap for society or social wants. They do not produce to satisfy wants, but to insure profits, and they stop production as soon as their profits are threatened—as soon as it does not pay.

But that is not all. It is to the rule of these selfish plutocrats, and to their wage-system, competition and “private enterprise” that the so-called “overproduction” and our crises are due, and not at all to the speculative rise in the value of land, as George declares—a most far-fetched reason and one he never would have hit upon, if land had not filled his whole horizon.

We have seen that under the wage-system, as it at present attains, one part of the product of labor goes to the workmen under the form of wages, the other part, in the shape of rent, interest and profits, goes into the pockets of landowners, capitalists, employers and other “gentlemen at large.” Statistics, taken from the Census Reports of the United States, show us that these two shares are about equal. The workpeople thus receive in wages only about half of what they produce, consequently they cannot with their best will buy back what they produce. On the other hand, the “gentlemen at large” who pocket the other half, get so much that they cannot with their best will consume it all.

Here we have an all-sufficient reason for “overproduction,” which curious term, of course, does not mean that there are not always plenty of empty stomachs that want to be filled, and plenty of bare backs that want to be covered, but does mean that those who have money do not want any more goods, and those who do want them have no money wherewith to buy them. The above reason explains the whole thing we say. It explains why goods are heaped up in warehouses on one side, and why, on the other side, vast amounts of capital are lying idle—capital that ought to be used in buying up the goods, but is not. It is by thus being the proximate cause of “overproduction” that the wage-system, hitherto exclusively an evil to the workpeople, is fast becoming a social curse.

Then it is, that in order to get rid of this “overproduction” somehow, that the capitalist classes of all countries raise that cry, which is constantly dinned into our ears: “Foreign markets! we must have foreign markets! And all our governments, being really nothing but governing committees of these same classes, do their best to secure foreign markets for their clients. They send diplomatic notes protesting against exclusion of their pork, or sack Alexandria or rouse the sleepy Chinese with the roar of cannon, all in order to get other people to trade. But these foreign markets are already beginning to dry up. Even half-savages learn sometime or other to manufacture for themselves. What then: Then this capitalist system must fall; there is no help for it. For then the only way of creating an effective home demand for the products is to give workpeople the full reward for their labor, that means to revolutionize the present system. Thus we see, that the wage-system which has built up this capitalist system is also, under our very eyes, digging its grave.

And competition is helping along. Competition makes our whole production planless, anarchic. It makes our producers each produce for himself, sell for himself, all in secrecy, though their success and failure depend exactly upon how much their rivals produce and sell. This is the proximate cause of our crisis—those social pestilences that produce more misery than did the plagues of the Middle Ages.

The wage-system and competition have thus in our days become more harmful than useful; they, together, are now undermining the Established Order so-called, and will inevitably, before long, unless forestalled, lead to a catastrophe and a crash.

Unless forestalled! Can it be forestalled? Yes, it can. Evolution, indeed, is pointing out to us the outlines of the New Social Order.

We can see all around us a constantly growing concentration of production and distribution, which is more and more absorbing the efforts of isolated individuals; in fact, making all efforts of isolated individuals impossible. On the other hand, we find in the nations that are politically most developed in the United States and Great Britain—yes Great Britain, the country of Herbert Spencer and the home of the “let alone” doctrine—a constantly growing centralization of the Collective Will, which is more and more curtailing and contracting the proprietary sphere of individuals.

Is it not easy to see that the time will surely come when these two opposing forces will come in contact? Are they not already in contact in the nations we have mentioned? Is not here and in Great Britain the Collective Will, the nation, face to face with overgrown corporations, whose private interests are diametrically opposed to those of the community at large?

Can any one doubt the issue? Of course private control will have to give way to public control. Capitalists—who, in truth, have simply been performing the function as paymasters for Society—will have to give way to society, to the nation democratically organized. That is why Socialists demand that ownership of all means of production placed under the supreme control of the Collective Will, and forever after worked for the collective benefit. We are the only party that formulate a programme which fulfills the requirement of George himself, “it must swim with the current of the times.” We are the true co-operators of the Power behind Evolution, and our plan is the only one that possibly can forestall the catastrophe and crash that is surely approaching.

The day after the means of production are placed under collective control, we have not a particle of doubt that, even if the present ratio of wages be for a time maintained, the wages themselves can safely be doubled and the daily hours of labor reduced to six.

But George reproaches us, that we are not willing to go step by step. Oh, yes, we are. But it will be seen from the above that George will really not at all that which we will. He wants Society to stand still, while Evolution demands change. But we are perfectly willing to admit that this change in the control of the means of production need not be accomplished all at once; only this must be insisted on: that one step must involve and be followed by an other sometime. And as such a first step, we greet the demand in the call for a convention of the United Labor Party for governmental control of telegraphs and railroads. This is a very proper first step. Thereafter insist on governmental control of the express business, and, thus, of one of the larger of the national enterprises after the other.

And so we should like to see the municipalization, the taking under municipal control, of the sale of coal, of milk, of ice, the operation of gas-works and horse-railroads, the carrying on of bakeries and drug stores—yes, and of saloons, too.

But George will insist, that such control by the collective will is destructive of liberty, will crush individuality and make all personal property impossible. This is a perfect misapprehension of the matter. It will do no such thing.

We do not for a moment contemplate that the State, even when democratically organized, shall do all the nation’s business, or even a considerable part thereof. Not to speak of this, that all local affairs will be controlled by the various localities, we contemplate that the business of the nation will be carried on as a co operative business is carried on now, by Associations, or Trades Unions, if you will call them so, which themselves determine the functions of their members, their hours of work, and freely distribute their earnings among themselves. The collectivity will only have the three functions, of being General Manager, General Statistician and General Arbitrator. As Statistician, it will determine how much is to be produced; as Manager, distribute the work and see to it that it is performed; as Arbitrator, it will see justice done between association and association, between association and members.

Then liberty will be realized for the first time, for dependence on individuals will cease; individuality will, for the first time, have a real opportunity of developing itself, and property will be placed on an unimpeachable basis, that of being the result of one’s own exertions. Everybody will, for the first time, have a chance of acquiring property.

But Interdependence will be strong. George is a thorough Individualist. He says in Social Problems, (page 108): ”A man has no right to compel any one else to work for his benefit; nor have others a right to demand that he shall work for their benefit. This right to himself, to the use of his own powers and the results of his own exertions, is a natural, self-evident right, which, as a matter of principle, no one can dispute, save upon the blasphemous contention that some men were created to work for other men.” And so in one of his answers in his Standard, we read: “Society had no right to command the labor of Sir Isaac Newton. He owed it no labor.”

These “principles,” drawn from George’s inner consciences, are false, “blasphemously” false. We belong to each other, and this rests upon the contention that all men are created to work for other men. George would, if he could, separate the Individual entirely from Society. But Society is an organism, whose members are interdependent even now to a much greater degree than it seems. We are destined to become much more interdependent and, indeed, entitled to no blessings that our fellows cannot legitimately share.

We are confident that the members of the United Labor Party are in that respect far more advanced than Henry George, and that just for this reason they will, in convention assembled, insist that their Party is a party of the workers against those that monopolize the means of labor; a party whose aim is the abolition of the wage-system, and, in the end,


[1] All references to this book and others by George will be from the editions of Lowell & Co.